Calverley United Junior Football Club has been honoured with two prestigious awards for its pioneering work in the local community.
The club is one of the West Riding winners of the Football Association and McDonald’s grassroots Football Awards 2021, scooping both the Grassroots Club of the Year and Youth Coach of the Year for Luke Cooper.
On the grassroots club of the year award, judges praised Calverley United‘s ‘phenomenal’ work in the community, offering everyone involved ‘support, encouragement and hope’ during the pandemic. Judges added:
“They’ve worked hard to become a Community Charter Standard Club, achieved last year, and their acceptance as a new Wildcats Centre, helping further grow local girl’s access to football and fitness.
“The hard work behind the scenes often goes unnoticed but the Club does so many things, like as developing a Youth Committee to help inform the Club’s DNA, improving the whole experience for everyone involved.
“The positive impact in the local community is truly phenomenal. They’ve grown the girls’ game from five girls, on a mixed team four years ago, to nearly 100 girls training and playing regularly, and their first ever girls’ team reached the West Riding Cup Final last year.
“Behind the scenes volunteers have worked really hard to help improve access to better pitches and facilities. During lockdown the club inspired over 180 players and coaches to contribute to the #PassTheBallNotTheVirus challenge, just one example that shows what an impressive, inclusive, and well-loved community club they are.
“They’re a small village club which has doubled in size over the last five years, even though there are a lot of clubs nearby with huge catchment areas – and all without an official clubhouse and limited use of pitches. It’s the volunteers that makes the club stand out, they really do inspire the children from the local community, and further afield, to be the best they can be.
“They’ve come together to raise money for community, school and sports defibrillators and they’ve worked so hard to ensure that each return to football following lockdown is as safe, and fun, as it possibly can be.”
Luke Cooper was named Grassroots Coach of the Year (Youth) winner for his outstanding contributions. Judges said:
“Luke has gone the extra mile in the past year to keep children he coaches at Calverley United engaged in football throughout the pandemic. He’s kept the sessions safe by communicating clear guidance to both players and parents as well as making sessions fun for all who attend who always leave with a smile on their faces.
“Whilst indoor football was restricted, he made sure outdoor football sessions were run to benefit players mental and physical health in challenging times. During the tightest restrictions in the first lockdown he also made sure teams were provided training videos to do from home to keep them engaged in football.”
Mr Cooper Tweeted his pride at the club’s achievements:
“What a way to mark my 20th year at @CalverleyUnited, who I’ve played & coached for since [I was] five. Coach of the Year and Grassroots Club of the Year – truly proud of my club and humbled.
“I know my old man, who was my coach and chair of club, would be beaming with pride.”
Mr Cooper’s father, David, was just 54 when he went into cardiac arrest and passed away while on a family holiday in Portugal in 2015. Since then son Luke and the club have been active in raising money for defibrillators in his memory. Earlier this year the club raised £1,649 towards the David Cooper Memorial Fund.
A West Riding FA spokesperson paid tribute to all the winners, who can be found here. They said:
“This season our grassroots volunteers have adapted to the ever-changing Coronavirus pandemic. They responded quickly to make football happen when they could. And when they couldn’t play they kept players, volunteers and the wider community connected off the pitch.
“They demonstrated the true power of football, they stuck together, helped each other across teams, across clubs and showed what the football community could do when faced with uncertainty and an unparalleled situation.
“On behalf of everyone at West Riding FA we’d like to say huge congratulations to all of this year’s winners – and a big thank you for all you do for grassroots football in the county.”
Calverley United can be contacted here.